This series focuses on the region from where the roots of Western Judaic and Christian civilization of today are traced: the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern region surrounding the Mediterranean  from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine,  Jordan, Iraq, (western) Iran, and Egypt).  A similar evolution and change happened in the (farther) East that became dominated by Islam and Hinduism.

To read the entire series posted to date and other Zeitgeist Change Commentaries by Janet Wise go to

Note: The term androcracy is used to describe a social system ruled through force, or threat of force by men. This term derives from Greek root words Andros or “man,” and kratos (as in democratic), or “ruled.”


There is also, concerning (women) witches who copulate with devils, much difficulty in considering the methods by which such abominations are consummated. On the part of the Devil: first, of what element the body is made that he assumes; secondly, whether the act is always accompanied by the injection of semen received from another; thirdly, as to time and place, whether he commits this act more frequently at one time than at another; fourthly, whether the act is invisible to who may be standing by. And on the part of women, it has to be inquired whether only they who were themselves conceived in this filthy manner are often visited by devils; or secondly, whether it is those who were offered to devils by midwives at the time of their birth . . .

Therefore, let us now chiefly consider women; and first, why this kind of perfidy is found more in so fragile a sex than in men. And our inquiry will first be general, as to the general conditions of women; secondly, particularly as to which sort of women are found to be given to superstition and witchcraft; and thirdly, specifically with regard to midwives, who surpass all others in wickedness.


The Malleus Maleficarum: or Hammer of Witches, Part I, Question 6, Concerning Witches who Copulate with Devils; Why is it that Women are Chiefly Addicted to Evil Superstitions? (1484), by Heinrich Godfrey Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Catholic Dominican Inquisitors[1].


The Church Fathers were becoming more and more corrupt and their involvement in the daily life of the laity more pernicious, as well as destructive of women. Enforcing celibacy of the clergy was a constant focus and effort of the Church. Even during the ages when a priest marrying was permitted, celibates obtained a higher reputation for sanctity and virtue than married priests, who were believed subject to demons. But gradually the restriction of clerical marriages proceeded. First, the superior holiness of the unmarried was taught. A single marriage only was next allowed, and that had to be with a woman who had never before entered into the relation. Priests who had been twice married, or whose wife had been a widow, were forbade the ordination. The Council of Orleans, consisting of thirty-two bishops, decided that monks who married should be expelled from the ecclesiastical order. The Church was termed the spouse of the priest. It was declared that Peter possessed a wife before his conversion, but that he forsook her and all worldly things after he became Christ’s, who established chastity (therefore so should priests); priests were termed holy in proportion to their opposition to marriage. The thinking was that a priest’s wife was nothing but a snare of the devil, and he who is ensnared thereby will be seized fast by the devil, and pass into the hands of fiends and totally perish. The unmarried among the laity who had never entered the relation, and the married who forsook it, were regarded as saintly. So great was the opposition to marriage that a layman who married a second time was refused benediction and a penance was imposed.[2]

The Church restriction upon marriage, instead of producing chastity and purity of life led to the most debasing crimes, revolting vices, and the grossest immorality. Incest became so common that it was found necessary to prohibit the residence of a priest’s mother or sister in the house. Yet, though the Church externally set her seal of disapprobation upon this vice, her general teaching sustained it. Gregory, bishop of Venelli, convicted of incest by the Council of Rome, was punished by excommunication, but in a short time was restored to his former important position. Cardinal John of Cremons, the pope’s legate to the Council of Westminster 1125 declared it to be the highest degree of wickedness to rise from a female’s side to make the body of Christ. He was discovered that same night with a woman to the great indignation of the people and obliged to flee the country. Yet, while the Church held marriage (or sex with a woman) in contempt, at the same time, it taught women that having and rearing children was their highest duty (even though “unclean” and for which they were required to be “atoned”.) But for wealthy women of property, the Church urged them to take upon themselves the vow of virginity, their property passing into possession of the Church, thus helping to build up priestly power and wealth. Another class of clergy held the touch of a woman to be a contamination and to avoid it holy men secluded themselves in caves and forests. Confirmation was given to the theory that woman was defiled through the physical peculiarities of her being. Even her beauty was counted as an especial snare and temptation of the devil for which in shame she ought to do continual penance.[3]

Absolute celibacy of the priesthood proved very difficult to enforce. At the great council of London in 1237, Cardinal Otto deplored the fact that married men still received holy orders and held office in the church. In 1268 another great council convened in London, at which Cardinal Legate Ottoborn, the direct representative of the Pope, demanded the establishment of concubinage for priests. It became a component part of the celibate system, a tax for the license for concubinage paid to the bishop. So widespread became this immorality that even the Head of the Church pandered to it in the erection of a magnificent building devoted to illicit pleasures. A certain prelate boasted openly at his table that he had in his diocese 1,000 priests who kept concubines, and who paid him a crown each a year for their license.[4]

Once the Church was embedded with Roman rule, Canon law gained full control over civil law. “The absolute sinfulness of divorce, maintained by the Church had yet been allowed by civil law, was fully established. Woman was entirely at the mercy of man, the Canon Law maintaining that the confession of a guilty woman could not be received against her accomplice in sin, although it held good against herself, and the punishment due to both was made to fall on woman alone. A mother was prohibited all authority over her child, its relationship to her even being denied. While under Common Law, children followed the condition of their fathers: if he was free, his children were free. But under Church legislation, an entire reversal took place with the condition of the children following the condition of their mothers.  Thus slave mothers bore slave children to their masters; unmarried mothers bore bastard children to both priestly and lay fathers, thus throwing the taint of illegitimacy upon the innocent child and the sole burden of its maintenance upon the mother.”[5]

Under the concubinage system, the priest was free from all family responsibility; his mistress possessed neither present nor future claim upon him; children who according to church teaching followed the condition of the mother, were born to him, but for their education and maintenance neither ecclesiastical law nor civil law compelled him to provide for them. For many centuries this immoral tax brought enormous sums into the treasuries of both Church and State. Although the laws against marriage of priests were enacted on the pretense of the greater inherent wickedness of woman, history proves their chief objective to have been the keeping of all priestly possessions under church control. The saying of Paul was quoted; “He that is married careth for his wife, but he that is unmarried for the Lord.” Married bishops were occasionally confirmed in their sees but only upon condition that their wives and children should not inherit their property, which upon their death should fall to the church.[6]

The duty of women to obey, not just her male relatives, but all men by virtue of their sex was greatly inculcated. She was trained to hold her own desires in abeyance to those of the man, as he was her master. Every holy principle of her nature was subverted by this degrading assumption. Auricular (oral) confession gave the church priesthood immense power over the family; a power capable of being used toward many ends, especially in punishing over morals and manipulating and exploiting for the priest’s desired ends. This evil never found a more subtle method of undermining and destroying human will; it’s most debasing influences falling upon woman, who though fear of eternal damnation made known her most secret thoughts to the confessor, an unmarried and frequently youthful man. It soon and often became a source of very great corruption to both the priest and the woman.[7]

Note: This is the exact same dogma and brainwashing ideology being inculcated into female children under the control of the Christian fundamentalist Right today. That exploration is yet to come.

But back to the Catholic Dark and Middle Ages, since the Bible was not made available to the laity, the priests could interpret the teachings to serve their own interests. The priesthood soon became a sanctuary of insolence and arrogance. Claiming direct inspiration from God, they taught and believed their own infallibility, and in the name of that god they professed to serve, perpetrated the grossest of crimes from financial embezzlement to sexual crimes with total impunity against women and children.[8]

No religion had ever demanded that its rank and file fight so hard against their reproductive urges, and when lawmakers view sex as bad, they write bad sex laws. In spite of the Catholic hierarchy’s abhorrence of sex and sexual desire, no one found a way to regenerate without coitus, so sex had to be tolerated at least some of the time. But the church quickly started to restrict the options. The broad outlines of Christian sex policy were crafted by the likes of Augustine and Jerome, but for more than five hundred years the real business was accomplished in church confessionals. The sacrament of the confession required penitents to divulge every detail of their sex lives—their dreams, emissions, positions, infidelities. As nearly everything people did sexually was forbidden, the process must have been terrifying. Upon hearing the confessions, the priests consulted handbooks called penitentials, which assigned specific penances for every sin. The penitentials were the church’s field guides for ranking good and bad sexual behavior. Because they were compiled locally, they differed from parish to parish. Despite their differences, they all carried the same message: All sex was dirty and polluting, but some kinds of sex were worse than others. “Just as it is more abominable to mix (a man) with a mule than with a male,” one penitential held, “so it is more irrational crime (to mix) with a male than with a female.” Similarly, a wet dream was not as sinful as masturbating while awake.[9]

Some penitentials suggested lines of questioning for priests to smoke out sinful behavior. One eleventh-century guidebook required that men be asked: “Have you ever coupled with your wife or another woman from behind, like dogs?” That same book required that women be asked about aphrodisiacs, lesbianism, bestiality, masturbation, abortions, oral consumption of semen, and the use of their menstrual blood as a love charm.[10]

The penitentials prohibited sex between husbands and wives during the first three days of marriage as well as Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the three Lents, the weeks following Easter, the days preceding the Pentecost, the two months around Christmas, and hundreds of other holy days, not to mention during a woman’s pregnancy, lactation, or menstruation. At best, that left about four days per month. Even then, there were strict rules. Sex was never to take place during the daytime, and there was to be no fondling or lewd kisses ever. One handbook forbade husbands from seeing their wives naked. No sexual positions other than the missionary, male-on-top variety were allowed, because they were animal like and too stimulating. Oral and anal sex were punishable by up to twenty-five years of fasting and abstinence. After sex took place, moreover, people were expected to vigorously wash themselves and avoid going to church.[11]

Though the penitentials were gradually lessened and replaced by general laws enforced by formal court, the former’s influence would be felt for centuries. Sex in all its forms retained its immoral stench, and it can still be smelled. As recently as 1980, Pope John Paul II declared that married men were morally guilty of adultery if they felt passionate sexual desire for their wives—an attitude we can trace directly back to Saint Augustine of Hippo and then enforced by the gloomy moral universe of the penitentials.[12]

Given that the Church had control over the conscience of men, held the power to unlock the doors of heaven and hell, and was a strongly organized body working toward their own selfish end, it is not astonishing that the Church – it’s chief objective the crushing of body and soul – should in the end prove conqueror, and commit the foulest crimes against woman while receiving approval of the entire Christian world. Many notable consequences resulted from the final establishment of celibacy as a dogma of the Church:

First: The doctrine of women’s inherent wickedness and close association with Satan took on new strength.

Second: Canon Law gained full control over civil law.

Third: An organized system of debauchery arose under the mask of priestly infallibility.

Fourth: Auricular confession was confirmed as a dogma of the church.

Fifth: Prohibition of the Scriptures to the laity was enforced.

Sixth: Crime was more openly protected, the system of indulgences gained new strength, becoming the means of great revenue to the church.

Seventh: Heresy was more broadly defined and more severely punished.

Eighth: The Inquisition was established.[13]

Rape was not condoned in the Middle Ages, but neither was there much concern about it. As Christianity took hold in Rome, rape was patchily redefined as a sexual crime, but the law remained very hard on the victims. Wellborn girls could be executed along with their abductors if they were found willing. In many cases, females were punished even if they did not consent, on the theory that they could have put up more effective resistance. If maids or chaperones were found to have helped the rapist come into the house, molten lead was poured down the servant’s gullets.

The penitentials punished most violence and all illicit sex, but rarely put the two together. Rape victims always risked the accusation that they had invited the sex, or not fought off the violation hard enough. If a rape resulted in pregnancy, the woman who carried the child had almost no chance of winning in court. The ‘two seed’ theory of conception which was prevalent at the time, held that both men and women needed to ‘ejaculate’ to conceive a child. As ejaculation was always accompanied by pleasure, the pregnancy would be considered proof that the woman had enjoyed herself.[14] If this sounds eerily reminiscent of Christian fundamentalist male righteous ignorance of today—as in “there is no such thing as a pregnancy from rape because a female body has a way to shut that whole thing down”—that ignorance buried in their DNA stems from the Catholic ideology of the very Dark and Middle Ages.

A footnote reminder: Though sex with a woman and the very institution of marriage was held in low regard by the Catholic Fathers, there was among the priesthood the practice of keeping mistresses or concubines. It became so common that their immorality became dignified. The priests’ concubines and their children formed a class in society that ranked with wives of laymen; they were referred to as “the Hallowed Ones;” the touch of the priest sanctifying them. In the estimation of the Church, an immoral life led with a priest was more honorable than marriage with a layman. So far removed was celibacy from representing purity of life, the priesthood grew to look upon themselves as especially set apart for indulgence in vice. Had history not faithfully documented this corruption within the priesthood, it would seem impossible that among the people set above all others to police their morality, they were the most sinful and degraded. It is unfortunate proof of how readily and easily irresponsible power corrupts, and the true meaning of right and wrong is totally lost.

Yet, during this time, you have such writings as that of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) who even minimized woman’s unique role in conception:

In the begetting of man, the mother supplies the formless matter of the body; and the latter receives its form through the formative power of the semen of the father.[15]

By the 14th century medicine as a science was nil; while universities were being founded all over Europe, the general methods of teaching medicine were prescribed by the Church. Instead of Crusades, this would be the century of wars fought by mercenaries for private or royal profit, of pestilences and tragedies. It was when spiritual power of the Church was waning but the political aspirations of the Popes were increasing. This was due, in part to the Church’s need to replenish their coffers from the expense of the Crusades.

Because of the millions of deaths during the Crusades, women outnumbered men seven to one. It has been estimated that more than six million men (and many women) were swallowed up in the Crusades of the 13th century and the wars of the 14th century. But this was to be much less than the number of deaths due to pestilence. As many as sixty million people, most of them young and strong, died of the so-called Black Death which recurred seven times during the century. The disease was probably the bubonic plague, being called the Black Death because of hemorrhagic spots it caused on the body. Rivers were polluted, and rats reveled in the carnage and then died in the streets. The dead were buried by the cartful in pits outside the city walls. The fatalities were enormous. By 1350 the population of London was only one-half what it had been ten years earlier. Historians assume that it was women who cared for the majority of the ill, for only churchmen of the lowest order practiced medicine; laymen as physicians and surgeons were few, and many relied on astrology and a glance at the urine after which they consulted the stars for prognosis. They avoided coming in contact with the terminally ill. In spite of the deaths, the people learned nothing about sanitation. Though filthy with offal, the Thames was continually used for drinking water. John of Burgundy, a physician of Liege wrote in 1365 not of symptomology of the epidemics but to discuss their causes of which he blamed the stars and the corrupt air. No universities conducted any studies to prove or disprove it. Sir John also recommended that while everybody should keep his hands clean and frequently dip them in rose-water or vinegar, they should not bathe for fear of opening the pores of the skin. Among other contagious diseases ravaging the populations at this time were erysipelas, gangrene, typhoid, smallpox and measles. Besides all these diseased men, women and children, there were at large hundreds of maniacs who were supposed to be in league with the devil; many of these were bound to stakes and tortured, if not killed, in order to exorcise their demons.[16]

Though ignorance of medicine and sanitation was no more general than before the Crusades, the ostracizing of the Jews who were the best physicians and practiced sanitation and hygiene severely handicapped medical progress.[17] And while women did most of the medical work, they were not allowed to study medicine in most all of Europe. There were, in the 14th century, thirty-two chartered universities in Europe. Of these, Oxford and Cambridge, Paris, Montpellier, and Bologna were the oldest, while those of Avignon, Rome, Florence, Vienna, and Heidelberg were quite young. The medical school of St. Cosmos in Paris and those of the Italian universities admitted laymen, but only those of Italy admitted women as students. Because Italy’s universities were never closed to women – the medical schools at Salerno and Bologna drawing men and women from every quarter of the globe – the result being that Italy led the world in medicine, such as it was, in the 14th century.[18]

But southern Europe was also experiencing corruption and unequaled immoral depravity. At the urging of the Church, a coalition of Christian Kings drove the Moors out of Al Andalus in the 13th and 14th centuries, and yes, burned their books and destroyed their libraries.

The inquisition in Spain in 1478 at the insistence of Catholic Dominican Friar Torquemada, with permission from Queen Isabella, for the extermination of heretics, was now turned against Jews and the new Protestants. The Moors driven out; now the Jews were ordered to leave Spain with scarcely the clothes on their backs, even their bodies likely to be ripped open to see if they had swallowed money or jewels. Eight hundred thousand Jews left Spain at this time, twenty thousand of whom died in the harbor of Naples as they made their way east, and as many more in the harbor of Genoa of plague. At the same time, such Turks and Arabs as were in Italy were expelled or killed by the hundreds. Forty-one old women were burned to death as witches at Como for the witch mania now was waxing into full swing.[19]


[1] Note: Because court records were often not accurately maintained and preserved over time, the actual number has been difficult to verify, other than it has been possible to trace the numbers well into the hundreds of thousands with other historical writings documenting the 9,000,000 figure. In Germany alone, 100,000 witch burnings have been carefully documented. There were very likely many more. At the same time, there has been a concerted effort to downplay the numbers by those either sympathetic to, or aligned with, the Church. It is interesting to note that in reading historical accounts written closer to the time in history that this heinous crime was being perpetrated onto the masses of women in Western society by the Church, that the estimated numbers were greater, with factual accounts provided, and that they have lessened in later writer’s estimations. This indicates that over time those sympathetic to the Church have lessened the numbers by methods common to those who create deceptions; scoffing the credulousness of the numbers, disguising in Church-sympathizer pseudo-studies which are biased, and simply by repeating the premise of the lie often enough that it becomes the standard-bearer of truth. No matter what the true numbers were – and this writer is inclined to believe the older historical accounts which studied it closer to the time in which the crime occurred – the victims’ crime was being women; and it invariably had to do with the loathing of her sex and sexuality.

[2] Matilda Joslyn Gage, Woman, Church and State, p 71

[3] Ibid. p 74

[4] Ibid. p 79

[5] Ibid. pp 83-84

[6] Ibid. p 80

[7] Ibid., pp 84-85

[8] Ibid., p 86

[9] Eric Berkowitz, Sex and Punishment (Counterpoint, Berkeley, CA 2012) pp 129-130

[10] Ibid., p 130

[11] Ibid., p 131

[12] Ibid., pp 134-135

[13] Matilda Joslyn Gage, Woman, Church and State., p 81

[14] Erik Berkowitz, Sex and Punishment, pp 137-138

[15] Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica

[16] Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead, The History of Women in Medicine,  pp. 246-249

[17] Ibid. pp. 246-249

[18] Ibid. pp. 260, 271

[19] Ibid. pp. 333-334


Janet Wise

Janet Wise